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Chuck Clark 07-04-2000 10:43 AM

Hi everyone,

I was just reading some of the posts here on AikiWeb Forum and I see lots of folks using the words "competition or competitive" and I would like to kinda pick this word apart a bit because I think our society's usage is skewed. I would appreciate your thoughts after reading the following essay.

This article originally appeared in the Jiyushinkai Budo News and
then was reprinted in Furyu, The Budo Journal

I am a competitor. I grew up competing for grades in school and victories on the athletic field. Now I compete in the business world. At times it seems my whole life is a competition. So, what drew me to aikido? This is a noncompetitive martial art with no tournaments, trophies, or the other traditional trappings of competition. Am I trying to escape from competition?

My involvement in aikido has forced me to question my understanding of competition. I've always thought of competition as winning or losing. Where did I get this idea? As a kid I was told that it doesn't matter if I win or lose, but it's how I played the game that counts. As an adult, I was told that winning is everything, and the only thing worse than losing was failing to compete. This approach to competition seemed to produce a state of warfare in my life. Every situation became a confrontation resulting in either a win or a loss, and losing was unacceptable. Is competition reflected in this zero-sum view of life?

The word compete comes from the Latin competere, which is a compound verb formed from com that means 'together', and petere that means 'to seek'. Therefore, compete originally meant 'to seek together'. Webster's defines compete as 'to come together or to strive consciously or unconsciously for an objective'. These definitions appear more closely related to aikido than my zero-sum view of life as 'winning is everything'.

So, maybe aikido is competitive. It is a journey we take together, seeking an objective, and hopefully as we travel our journey moves from the unconscious to the conscious.

I believe that competition has become confused with combat, which is a zero-sum path. Combat comes from the Latin combattere, which means 'to fight together'. Webster's defines combat as 'fighting with and striving to reduce or eliminate'. These definitions appear to be more consistent with our society's understanding of competition. We like to view our activities in terms of warfare. Why else do we find Sun Tzu's The Art of War in the business section of our bookstore, or hear athletes talking about 'taking no prisoners'? Are these competitors or combatants?

Traveling along the road of competition is healthy, and it is only when we detour into the darkness of combat that we lose our way. Confusing the two roads has deprived many people of the chance to experience the lessons of competition. Some have become engrossed with the idea that winning is everything, and they only see life as a series of battles in a war. The only purpose to their life is winning, but they never question what they have won. Others are scared of losing, so they refuse to play the game. They become spectators, failing to participate in life, and losing by default. Neither of these groups understands that competition is part of our journey through life, not the final destination.

Life requires participation (getting your hands dirty; putting our hand in your partner's face; taking a fall), and participation involves the risk of failure. In The Art of Peace, O-Sensei says, "Failure is the key to success, each mistake teaches us something." How can we find failure or success if we confuse competition with combat?

Success and failure are 'mile markers' along the road during competition. We use them to gauge our progress. We should learn from both our successes and our failures, because neither are permanent nor final stops along the road. However, in combat, success is just a reprieve until the road ends in failure. Which road do you wish to travel?

Copyright by Roger Alexander 1996 All Rights Reserved

(Roger was a professional baseball pitcher and is now a teacher and coach as well as a sandan in aikido.)


akiy 07-04-2000 10:54 AM

Good points there, Chuck.

I don't think competition is a bad thing, even in aikido. I feel that competition with ego leads to the concepts of winning and losing, something that's probably not "right" in aikido. However, competition in it's purest sense will help both parties learn and grow in a cooperative manner.

(I have a quote here on my whiteboard at home that says, "Always make new mistakes." As long as I'm open to making mistakes, I feel like I'm open to fixing them, too...)

-- Jun

Chuck Clark 07-04-2000 11:16 AM

Happy 4th of July, Jun!

By training with the "real" meaning of competition and the intent to transcend the fear or worry of "winning and losing" we have the chance to actually succeed in this transcendence.

I think if we do not have a "competitive attitude" there is no real chance to grow. However, if we have, as Roger says, taken to using the concept of "combat" while using the word competitive, we just muddy the waters. We are then trying to eliminate something that is necessary to succeed in the practice.

I think there was a mistake made in translating M. Ueshiba's teachings by using the word "competitive" as meaning a zero sum activity where there is a winner and loser. Of course this is paradoxical because most of us for a long, long time feel deep in our guts that we "lose" every time someone makes a technique on us when we don't expect it, etc. This is why the transcendence is necessary. Winning and losing isn't important ... until it IS important! We must know the difference.

AikiTom 07-04-2000 02:39 PM

Good insight. Wanting to excel and wanting to win are two different things, or maybe one at different points on the same continuum. A matter of degree. Pressing yourself to excel is good I feel because you take pleasure at achieving something that took focused effort, whereas in winning some take pleasure from the fact that someone subdued/dominated another.
On a tangent, a thought I always have liked is in the Sun Tzu book, in which it is asked, "What is the object of war?" Someone answers, "Victory," and they are told that's not correct. Rather, it's "Peace." The knowledge behind the exchange is that "victory" is not lasting, and often prompts retaliation in a new try for "victory," in a cycle of violence. And that is where an excessive thirst for "winning" on the mat, can be dangerous, not fun, and distort the mood/culture of a school.

giriasis 07-05-2000 01:40 PM

competing with oneself
Thank you Chuck.

That article made me think of my band competitions in junior high and high school. The schools in my home county were part of the Florida Bandmasters Association and they did not believe in competition. They believe that to excel in music a muscisian should "compete" against him or herself. We did not compete for first, second or third but rather for Superior, Excellent, Good ratings. We were judged for the quality of our performance rather judged against other performers. So essentially if all participants were good enough, they all could receive a Superior rating.

Even now as I learn and practice aikido this concept of competing with oneself has been reinforced so I can become a better person whether it is in law school or in the dojo.

[Edited by giriasis on July 5, 2000 at 09:42pm]

dbgard 07-05-2000 03:33 PM

the subjective aiki competition threshold
I liked the thread concerning irimi and tenkan, but I was having trouble logging in to respond. I'd like to sum up my thoughts on it. Irimi at its highest level is entering a distant or future situation with one's mind, then deciding whether or not to physically enter this friendly or dangerous environment. If a positive outcome is predicted, then it is time for either irimi "hug" as Dennis Hooker Sensei taught at a seminar of his which I attended, or irimi nage to "cleanse" the situation. If one forsees a negative outcome for his or her self, then tenkan / kaiten is far more noble and wise than iriminage. I hope y'all like my thoughts on that =).

Aiki is Eternal,
Drew Gardner
Gokyu (but ALWAYS a beginner)
Aikido Schools of Ueshiba
FSU Aikido Club, Tallahassee, FL

Nick 07-06-2000 11:08 PM

I believe that competition, in Aikido, even as described above, is still a bad thing. Competition is about winning, IMO, and if someone in an Aikido dojo tries to "compete" with others, the results are disasterous. Uke comes in with an attack, and BOOM! Nage wants to show everyone his technique is soooo good (competition) and throws uke with excessive force, breaking his wrist.

Now, this is an exaggeration of course, but as O-sensei said: "There is no attack. To be attacked is to lose." So therefore, if we try to attack each other (competition), we both lose...


Chuck Clark 07-06-2000 11:42 PM


You're missing the point.

The "construct" you're using for competitive is skewed and slanted towards aggression and combative behavior which is destructive and does not contribute to learning aikido.

Combative training relationships do not form trust and intimacy between partners.

Training in a way that leads to transcendence of winning and losing must have a true "competitive" intent but without aggression and the zero sum attitude of a combative intent.

Nick 07-07-2000 07:14 AM

damn... I hate it when you're right :).


dbgard 07-07-2000 06:43 PM

to Chuck

This is an aikido website. If you would like to discuss the beauty of competition, reverse evolution, and killer instinct, please start your own website for your martial "art", godblessyuwazzap aikibudo or whatever. In aikido it is my understanding that a positively numbered sum is better than a zero sum. I think you are forgeting a key philosophy of the East when you make your bold statements. (Remember, the East is where all this great budo came from that we practice.) Here it is:

Increase can often be Decrease.

e.g. 2 + (-1) equals 1. Adding something negative to such a noble number as '2' will only manifest itself as a step in the wrong direction.

Do not fret, increase can also be increase!

e.g. 2 plus 1 equals 3. do you understand, Chucky? I look forward to your feedback on this matter.

the number 0 is terrible! that's the goto statement in computer programming, it's the endless cycle of rebirth in Hinduism and Sikh (I think), 1 is no-mind, 0 is no life. Life is a sport, so drink gallons of water and pee in the toilet so as not to kill flowers in the garden. There I go again rambling, I'll say bye for now.

Drew "The Man" Gardner
Arrogance is Only Fun
When it is Harmless

Chuck Clark 07-07-2000 07:01 PM

Mr Gardner,

Young sir, you show your instructors that you list in your profile great disrespect by treating anyone in such a disrespectful manner. I'm certainly glad that I don't have to put up with you.

'Nuff said.

Keith 07-07-2000 09:23 PM

Are you referring to Chuck CLARK? Because I see the exact opposite of what you are criticising in your post. Have I missed something? Help me out here. Perhaps you think he meant "competitive" in the way it's normally used in our culture, when he actually meant it in the spirit of the first post. Of course if I'm the one who has misunderstood Mr. Clark, he is welcome to correct me.

Keith Engle

AikiTom 07-07-2000 10:33 PM

I'm with you Clark Sensei.

[Edited by AikiTom on July 9, 2000 at 01:39pm]

dbgard 07-08-2000 09:25 AM

The wonderful severance of the connection between respect and ego

AikiTom wrote:
Dang! I, too, am speechless. Feel like I was sitting in an empty room, and an airplane flew in one window and out the other! A little too much rawness to be beautiful in that mental Altoid.
Arrogance ain't harmless or fun, and it hurts or gets hurt on the mat.
I'm with you Clark Sensei.

I don't respect the ego, neither should anyone else, an uchi deschi of O'Sensei's for 15 or so years once became a Tengu and taught me that. Sorry y'all didn't pick up on it. I hope you learn it soon or form your own little martial "art" because aikido has no room for the likes of this bull shit.


AikiTom 07-08-2000 09:28 AM

[Edited by AikiTom on July 9, 2000 at 01:40pm]

dbgard 07-08-2000 10:08 AM

to Tom

Since you have all the right words and the perfect order for them, why haven't you written a book yet? Or maybe you just couldn't find a publisher. keep the faith kohai!! Oh, and you seem to be a little obsessed with me, and if you feel that turning into anger-filled, psychotic envy, Dr. Drew recommends fluoxetine HCl (Prozac). Take care now, bye bye then.

Drew "Mr. Misogi" Gardner

p.s. I use the words in the proper way I think, just not the way in which you can complete your psychotic secret mission in life (I apologize for that) NOTTTT!!!

Nick 07-09-2000 07:41 PM


I understand the kind of person you are. You believe you are right, and everyone else is wrong. Perhaps we are. However, you have no right to personally attack someone or call their philosophy bullshit because you don't agree with them is not only arrogant, but is stupid, and in real life will get you hurt. You should be more repectful of everyone on this board, and also their opinions.

Also- how do I understand the kind of person you are? Because I used to be that kind of person. Then I found the art that is called Aikido, and it totally changed my life. I now have respect for everyone, no matter how low my opinion is of them, because everyone thinks that they are right. Are my words and thoughts bullshit? Perhaps. However, if they are, I don't want to see the truth, because this bullshit called Aikido is amazing, and has permentantly changed my life.

I only hope you realize the spiritual aspects of Aikido soon.



AikiTom 07-09-2000 08:54 PM

Nick, thanks for the back-up, bud. The problem with a "'roid rage" guy like this isn't his words or his lack of understanding of aikido, (for instance, his statement "gokyu but still beginner's mind" - Duh, gokyo IS a beginner, Drew!) it's that he doesn't see these faults.
This type of person always hurts someone on the mat, and leaves a trail of injuries. I doubt he works out with the senseis he mentions - they wouldn't tolerate that behavior.

Pete 07-10-2000 02:18 AM

I think another aspect of this chaps disrespect for people is the way he changes your name without permission in his posts. I wouldn't dream of calling Chuck Clark Sensei 'Chucky', and if TOM chooses to sign his threads TOM, who is he to decide to use THOMAS?? After all, your given on your birth certificate name may actually be TOM!!

The thread itself is very informative, AND I think, quite ON TOPIC about Aikido, after all, as far as I can tell, one of the BIG questions revoloving around in the Aikido world, seems to be 'should Aikido be competetive'!!

I personally don't get a great deal out of 'competetive combative' sports, but enjoy trying my best against friends in say bowling as much as the next guy. In Aikido, the only person I compete against is me! After all, I am the only one that is getting in the way of bettering myself in the art!!

Domo Arigato


Chuck Clark 07-10-2000 08:43 AM

Hi everyone,

This struggle with the concepts of how to be "competitive" without being "combative" is troublesome. I suspect we have gotten so used to using these words while meaning the same thing that we don't have a word for what it's like to be able to stop worrying about winning and losing.

What if we just "always try to do the best we can without worrying if we're 'better than someone else (or even how we were yesterday)' and just do the practice."

If we value the budo aspect of the practice then we must enter into the paradox of "caring whether we let the energy of the uke do its intended job or to get off the line, blend, take balance, and render that energy harmless" but not caring whether we "win or lose" or that we're "right or wrong" or that we're better than the other person. Just do the practice, try our best to survive a dangerous encounter (if it ever occurs), and let the relative dynamics of life determine all of those other things.


dbgard 07-10-2000 10:59 AM

All these grandiose opinions, and I have yet to hear a direct quote - or any type of substance - from one of the great aikido books out on the market. I do recall Erik Sensei mentioning one of Leonard Sensei's books, but the rest of you? Don't you want to share a viewpoint on a work by John Stevens, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Saotome Mitsugi (besides just his photos and discussion of aikijutsu)??? Wouldn't anyone like to thank Ikeda Sensei for operation one hell of a good aikido equipment business? I would.
This personal assault crap has gotta go, in my opinion, because compared to Saito Sensei, Saotome Sensei, and other rokudan and higher-ranking Sensei, we are all little ants trying to climb the hill in the U.S.
Maybe there's a hill in each country of the world which will one day be climbed by all the good citizens. One that glorious day the world will sing together. Honestly though, any one of we aikidoka conversing on this web page who is below the rank of rokudan, let's say (so we can draw a line somewhere), is a baby in aikijutsu. I know of students who have never even set foot in an aikidojo who are Sensei and Sempai to me in Aikido. Those who have acheived a form of satori and have found their personal Maai I consider Sensei and Sempai in the Way of Truth, the Way of the Kami, the Way of the kami, the Way of Harmonious Blending with the Spirit of God, the Way of Harmonious Blending with the Spirit of Good.


giriasis 07-10-2000 12:49 PM

You want a quote?
"In the Art of Peace we never attack. An attack is proof that one is out of control." --Morihei Ueshiba


"the Art of Peace can be summed up like this: True victory is self-victory; let that day arrive quickly!" --Morihei Ueshiba

From the way you speak, your words are very disrespectful. There are ways of expressing your disagreement without attacking them. I have read many of Chuck's words and others on this site and their words have given reason for deserving respect.

Just because someone with more experience, more knowledge, and more understanding of aikido disagrees with you does not mean you are less. It is just that they disagree.

My question to you would you speak to these people this way in person? I don't think so.

Anne Marie

[Edited by giriasis on July 10, 2000 at 12:59pm]

Nick 07-10-2000 02:49 PM

It is amazing the kind of zeal and bravery people get when their words cannot hurt them in real life. However, that bravado goes away for many faced with an attack. It is at that point that our bullshit turns to Aikido, and we subdue the opponent.

Also, to Pete: Who said we had to quote anyone or anything? Our own opinions have effect also.


dbgard 07-10-2000 03:14 PM

Re:Girl Interrupted:... your insight knows no bounds, as does your hypocrisy

giriasis wrote:
"In the Art of Peace we never attack. An attack is proof that one is out of control." --Morihei Ueshiba

A perfect example of hypocrisy and/or bold statements in light of lack of coherence and/or gratitude.

Do you think that calling me a coward and extremely disrespectful is a compliment of sorts? Sounds like a verbal attack to me. One which I deal with much more often than the physical attacks.

Fighting fire with fire gets nobody very far, try cooling the "hot ones" down with a little water, maybe everyone will feel better. Or, are you just trying to make an uncomfortable situation here behind the guise of an innocent girl? If so, you are kind of being a bitch. Take care now, bye bye then.

Drew G.

Nick 07-10-2000 03:48 PM

"Take Care now, Bye Bye then."

I hope you will heed your own words and leave this board. Your presence is dragging us off-topic and starting a flame war.


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